Syrian Regime running out of Troops as Britain Threatens to arm Rebels

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that he would veto the renewal of a European Union ban on weapons exports to Syria, and hinted that Britain might go it alone in supplying rebels with arms. The Syrian opposition wants the ban lifted, arguing that the rebels would benefit more than the regime (which is already being supplied with arms by Russia and Iran). Cameron appears worried about the rise of the Jabhat al-Nusra radical group in north Syria. Britain has a large Muslim population, some elements of which have radical tendencies, which might affect Cameron’s calculations. He likely wants to train and arm Syrians with views more acceptable to the British mainstream.

The call by the mufti or chief Muslim legal authority in Syria for more young men to join up to defend the regime suggested to many observers that the Baath government of Bashar al-Assad is having difficulty recruiting enough troops to fight off the rebels in the north and even in the environs of the capital.

Of the some 220,000 Syrian troops before the civil war broke out, 14,000 have probably died in the fighting, 140,000 are considered unreliable by the regime and have been benched, with some portion of those defecting or just staying home, and only the remaining 65,000 or so still committed to the fighting. I am distilling from AP’s report on the analysis of Joseph Holliday. It is enough to keep the regime from falling quickly, but not enough to stop swathes of the country from gradually going into the hands of the rebels. They now have al-Raqqah province in the north, and can move freely throughout Idlib.

Roughly 1,200 Syrian troops are killed every month and 4,800 more are wounded. If the wounded were all put out of commission (they aren’t), that rate of attrition would predict that the regime will fall within a year unless it can scare up a lot more troops.

Fighting continued to rage in the Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday On Sunday, rebels infiltrated back into the Baba Amr neighborhood, which supports them. Since then the regime has been attempting to dislodge them again, using artillery and aerial bombing. It was the regime’s willingness to deploy heavy weapons in the civilian neighborhood of Baba Amr last year they brought home to the world how brutal the Syrian Baath really is.

Homs is a key city on the route between the Mediterranean port of Latakia and the capital, Damascus. Were it to fall, it would be easier for the rebels to besiege the capital and starve out the regime.

Amateur footage of the bombardment was posted to Youtube but cannot be independently verified.

The regime seems to have more and more trouble asserting itself in key parts of the north of the country.

It was unable, for example, to stop rebels from taking the Shaikh Said district of Aleppo earlier this week, which allows them to cut off the city from the airport the regime uses to resupply its loyalists. Aljazeera English reports:

13 Responses

  1. Given all the interests that profit from and enjoy mass violence and conflict, it’s unlikely there will ever be “peace in our time.” The reportage here helps to display and inform the prejudices and plots of the various Players, and also us little folks like myself who view the mayhem and toss out our little tidbits for whatever reason.

    One asks, hopefully, whether there is at least maybe any indication that there is any set of conditions and directions that might at least lead to Accommodation, short of waiting for some number ‘n’ of generations to be born into and to die out of the current state of play of the Great Game in Syria and Bahrain and Pakistan and Notagainistan and so forth.

    Shows my naivete, I’m sure, that I would even entertain such an “unserious” question. But I betcha that there are a lot of people sick of war, sick of tribal and sectarianist predations, sick of being used by oligarchs and kleptocrats as nothing more than, ah, Bug Splat and cannon fodder and worker bees to keep refilling the honeycombs that the militarists and their contractors feed from so voraciously and destructively. Even in Israel, there are Israelis sick of the ruling motions toward an inevitable dead end.

    Would it break the spell, put a hex on anyone who thought “peace and quiet would be so nice,” to even talk about such possibilities? Joe and Bill and others, having developed some stock of skills at it, are invested in the Game the way it is, no doubt convinced that it’s the Right or maybe the Only Way, or at least personally beneficial or consistent with their world view. Not everybody is, or wants to be…

    • “Joe and Bill and others, having developed some stock of skills at it, are invested in the Game the way it is, no doubt convinced that it’s the Right or maybe the Only Way, or at least personally beneficial or consistent with their world view.”

      Invested in the Game the way it is? Mr. McPhee, you have no idea what my views are on a multitude of issues. You may not agree with me on certain points I have made on this forum, but it is a measure of your arrogance and ignorance that you make the claim that you know my thinking on every issue. Stop flattering yourself.

  2. “Cameron appears worried about the rise of the Jabhat al-Nusra radical group in north Syria.”

    The U.S. State Department designation of the al-Nusra front as a terrorist organization has actually enhanced the group’s credibility in the Arab world by the fact that America opposes the organization. The designation has little practical effect as there are no assets the group has in the U.S. which can be frozen pursuant to that designation.

    A December 25, 2012 article in Time magazine of a Jabhat al-Nusra official conceded that his organization has a significant percentage of non-Syrian fighters. This would dovetail with Iraqi and U.S. government conclusions that the al-Nusra front has a significant relationship with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a terrorist group that was formerly led by the terrorist Zarkawi, which has been a key target of American military and Iraqi government forces for eradication within Iraq; most observers also believe the al-Nusra Front deploys many Iraqis to fight the Syrian government troops. While Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated by government forces within that country, the al-Nusra front has enjoyed significant success against the Syrian government’s army and now reportedly control a northern province within Syria. It is also gaining some degree of popularity within Syria due to the prowess of its fighters.

    The destabilization of Syria internally has provided a unique opportunity for an al-Qaeda affiliate to exercise significant influence within an Arab country – although its numbers amount to a very small fraction of the number of fighters the Free Syrian Army has at its disposal.

    Jabhat al-Nusra has conducted numerous terrorist bombings, mass executions, and other conduct that could be regarded as war crimes. Although their ranks appear to be well-trained and have fought with distinction, there is undoubtedly great concern by Western interests if this organization gets control over chemical weapons stockpiles currently held by the Syrian government. Another area of concern is what could happen if the group becomes a “state-within-a-state” in Syria as Hezbollah became within Lebanon. Al-Qaeda has been generally viewed as a “death cult” and has not gained a political toehold even in the most radical Sunni Arab-led areas such as Yemen and Gaza, however a significant percentage of Syrians have expressed gratitude and even overt support for the al-Nusra front.

    British PM David Cameron’s concerns are well-founded.

    • I guess the answer to my wishful question will always be “All we can do is more of the same Stupid.”

      Yeah, let’s set the conditions, one little compelling stratagem at a time, not what we maybe intend, but there you are, for the kinds of people who do this sort of stuff to flourish and spread like some intractable crotch fungus, until they become a systemic infection and bid fair to kill the host: link to youtube.com

      Must make the Great Gamers proud, to know they set this kind of stuff in motion… And there’s lots more where that came from: link to youtube.com

      So the British MIC and State Security will be adding arms to the mix? THAT is likely to turn out well… And hey, “we” sure tried to kill Castro and Gaddaffi and Hussein with “our” vaunted trickies and technology. And Mossad and those folks have a pretty good record of political murder, though who knows what they are thinking, in the complex of enemies they have built for themselves — but if Assad is the problem, why is he still around? Little complex worries about global thermonuclear war? That’s a strange kind of “stability” and “security” we have achieved…

  3. The U.S. hires private contractors to fight and kill. Are private contractors available to Assad?

  4. It seems your site is slowly but surely loosing crediblity by basing itself on unsubstantiated information from Winep-linked desk-bound journalists.

  5. This sounds like a Saudi vs Iran (sunni-shia) power struggle being fought in Syria and the British (as usual) want to get a piece of the pie. The USA sees Iran as the greater threat, just as in the Iran vs Iraq conflict in the 1980s.

Comments are closed.